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    August 28, 2023

    All Paths Lead to the Cloud: The Roadmap to Modernize Your Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP for the Future

    This is the next article in the series about the many benefits of moving from a legacy on-premises Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP to a Cloud-based system like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

    Here are the topics we cover in this series: 

    Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP has existed in some form for nearly 40 years and in that time, it has proven to be some of the most versatile and effective ERP software on the market. In fact, you may have grown so attached to Dynamics NAV that you’re hesitant to make the leap to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central– and if so, we understand.

    But Dynamics NAV ERP has always been about staying on the cutting edge. Let’s take a look at ERP modernization in general, and what it entails. As well as explore the top three reasons to make that leap.

    The Importance of Modernization

    Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP began in 1984 under the name “PC Plus.” Since then, it has undergone many changes. With each iteration, NAV became more powerful, more dynamic and more capable of being adopted by organizations of all sizes and across industries.

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    At first, Dynamics NAV ERP was simple ledger software: essentially a digital version of the traditional “big black book” that accountants used for generations. In 2002, Microsoft acquired NAV and began its transformation into a technologically advanced, fully-fledged ERP system. It moved to the Microsoft SQL database, which allowed for larger datasets and enabled the scalability necessary for large organizations to start using it.

    In 2009, Dynamics NAV ERP introduced the role-tailored client that users are familiar with today and in 2013, they introduced web services that allowed for complex integrations with other software. Microsoft continued to improve Dynamics NAV ERP until 2018, when it became known as Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for the first time.

    All this is to say that Dynamics NAV ERP has always been in the process of modernizing and that by moving up to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, you’re not leaving NAV behind – you’re simply following it on a continuous journey of growth.

    What’s the difference between Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central? 

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is the latest and greatest version of Dynamics NAV ERP. It has taken a nearly exponential leap in functionality, allowing for distributed workforces to collaborate in real-time, which is crucial for growth in the modern marketplace.

    While an on-premises version still exists, the Cloud-based version of Dynamics 365 Business Central makes it easy for you to access your organization’s real-time data anywhere in the world. Business Central uses an AL codebase that allows for extension-based development, meaning that it’s easier than ever to customize and also easier than ever to upgrade, since you no longer need to individually upgrade each new piece of development to move up to the newest version.

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central also offers continued support, biannual automatic upgrades, responsive web-based UI, API-based integration and thousands of apps. If Dynamics NAV ERP took businesses to the moon (figuratively speaking), Dynamics 365 Business Central could take them to Mars and beyond.

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    Upgrading vs. Reimplementing: How to get to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

    There are two ways of transitioning from Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central: upgrading or reimplementing. Either process will help you modernize, but there are a few core differences between the two:

    Scope 

    When you upgrade Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP, the scope is limited to bringing all existing functionality to the new version. If ERP is a building, you’re essentially just taking your existing floor plan and moving it up one story. On the functional side, this means the need to review processes and bring in consultants is kept to a minimum. But on the engineering side, it’s a lot more complex, because they have to identify all of the existing customizations and build accommodations for all that code on the new platform.

    With reimplementation, the scope is expanded to include a full analysis of existing business processes and functionality. If your business needs have changed since you adopted your current Dynamics NAV solution, it’s an opportunity to address those needs with custom applications in your new, reimplemented Dynamics 365 Business Central solution.

    Process review 

    With upgrading, the processes don’t change much, so the need for process review is minimal. With reimplementation, however, your consulting team will perform an in-depth process review that involves exploring and fully leveraging of all your new functionality. This lightens the load for your developers and engineers, as they’ll be able to pinpoint areas for improvement and make minor tweaks.

    Functional area 

    If you just upgrade, you’ll already be familiar with your ERP’s functionality, because it’ll basically be the same as it was before. Your focus would be on training users to get used to the new, updated UI.

    Reimplementing requires more of a lift from the functional team– they’ll need to dig into the system to figure out how to fully utilize it, and they’ll need to scope out the functional aspects of all your custom features. That intensity will pay off quickly, however, as your organization benefits from the enhanced functionality of the reimplemented solution.

    Technical area 

    Upgrading is also a bit intense, but in a different way. The differences in code base between the old and new solutions present a major technical challenge, as your team will need to figure out how to make necessary code fit into the new system.

    The tech lift for reimplementation, on the other hand, is limited to dealing with the technical design and build of any custom features you may want.

    We recommend the reimplementation approach, as it can simplify things for you moving forward, especially when it comes to implementing Microsoft’s biannual updates, which are sure to add a ton of nifty functionality without the complications of too much custom code. But we also offer a hybrid audit, where we’d help you do a reimplementation while also defining which historical data and code to bring over and which to leave behind.

    Integration Through Harmonization in Microsoft Dynamics

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    The Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform is pre-integrated, which means it can accommodate a wide range of applications and thus serve just about any business function you can imagine. You can connect your ERP to your customer engagement platform, to Microsoft Teams for collaboration and to Microsoft Office, which makes it easy to use Excel for its many possible business functions. Microsoft’s Power Platform, with its endlessly useful Power Apps, can also work harmoniously with Business Central, as well as Azure services.

    Top 3 Reasons to Modernize Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP

    #1: Continuous improvement 

    Modernizing Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP by making the leap to Dynamics 365 Business Central gives you more opportunities to improve your business processes. Business Central is already quite powerful, but with biannual updates, you’ll get access to even more new features and functionalities. And as a result, you’ll be able to eliminate redundant custom features that tend to complicate things when the time comes to upgrade your solution.

    #2: Enhanced data protection 

    On the Cloud, system updates happen automatically, with little to no downtime. And thanks to Microsoft’s major investments in security, your risk of experiencing cyber-attacks and other safety issues will actually be lower than with your on-premises server. Organizations that modernize find that the combination of less maintenance and more protection makes everyone’s lives a lot easier.

    #3: Seamless integration 

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers pre-integrated platform capabilities, API-based integration for any apps you want to add, and the opportunity to automate many tedious-yet-vital processes, which frees up your staff to tackle more complex tasks.

    How Prides Corner Farms Modernized from Dynamics NAV ERP to Dynamics 365 Business Central

    Prides Corner Farms (PCF) is a third-generation family-owned wholesale and retail plant nursery in Lebanon, CT. When they made the switch to Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP in 2015, it helped their business grow.

    But eventually, PCF started facing challenges that made it clear that they needed to modernize: Their on-premises systems required a lot of costly maintenance and the process of upgrading those systems was complex. It wasn’t easy for them to connect Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP to the other apps they used for their unique business needs. And Dyanmic NAV’s reporting capabilities were a bit limited for what they wanted to do.

    PCF wanted more powerful tools for manipulating and visualizing data so they could make data-driven decisions about their business. Enavate helped them move to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, implement Solver BI and integrate Teams with their new solution. They’ve gotten a lot of business value out of their improved and fully integrated ecommerce platform, and they’ve even been able to automate tax-related processes, which is key for a company that ships products to states with different tax considerations.

    The Time to Modernize Your Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP is Now 

    There is no time like the present to move forward with modernizing your technology to get ahead of the competition in your industry. It’s not a simple flip of a switch though, it’s a process and one that you don’t have to go through alone to ensure you are leveraging the new system.

    To hear the full discussion about how to modernize your Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP for the future, download this webinar on-demand.

    Contact our Enavate experts to talk through where you are and where you want to be with your technology and we will get you on the right path.

    Tag(s): cloud

    Sebastjan Leban

    Sebastjan has over two decades of experience in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV and D365 Business Central channels. He also has vast knowledge and a track record of leading diverse engineering teams while supporting customers across various industries. Throughout his career, Sebastjan has witnessed the evolution of the ERP and the role it plays in the business technology landscape today.

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